Inquest into deaths of IRA men in Coagh set to be postponed

The bullet and burnt out car in which three IRA men were shot dead by the SAS in Coagh in 1991.
The bullet and burnt out car in which three IRA men were shot dead by the SAS in Coagh in 1991.

A long-stalled Troubles inquest that has already seen the state sued over excessive delays is set to be postponed again.

IRA men Michael “Peter” Ryan, 37, Anthony Doris, 21, and Laurence McNally, 38, were shot dead in an SAS ambush in Coagh, Co Tyrone in June 1991.

Last month Mr Ryan’s mother Kathleen was one of six people awarded £7,500 compensation by a High Court judge in Belfast after the police, Coroners Service and a number of other state bodies conceded that delays in six long standing inquests amounted to a breach of human rights.

At a preliminary hearing into the Coagh killings in Belfast, coroner Jim Kitson conceded that a scheduled September start date for the inquest was looking unlikely.

His assessment came after lawyers from respective parties involved in the case raised a number of preparatory issues that remain outstanding.

“It looks like September will simply be unworkable for any amount of reasons,” Mr Kitson said at Belfast Coroner’s Court.

Among the issues discussed were the scope of the probe; disclosure of MoD personnel files on soldiers involved in the incident, applications for Public Interest Immunity (PII) on certain material by the police and MoD; and the potential for independent expert witnesses to be commissioned to assess aspects of the evidence.

Preliminary work has been further complicated by a new legal team being appointed to the case this month, with lawyers requiring time to assess all the relevant documentation.

Mr Kitson insisted a lot of progress had been made in advancing the case and made clear he did not want to let the matter drift.

He asked lawyers to convene to discuss some of the outstanding matters and outline firm timetables ahead of the summer recess setting out when they expected to complete their work.

“What I am not prepared to do and will not allow to happen is to let this case drift,” he said.

Mr Kitson added: “I don’t wish it to slip because it’s substantially down the road to it being in a position for hearing.”